Norway is home to a single population of musk oxen, and they are all found in the mountain areas in Dovre. There are about 250 musk oxen i Norway, and they are a popular tourist attraction for both Norwegian and foreign tourists who want to see these arctic animals in the wild.
A musk ox safari can be a great experience, and the musk ox trail in Dovre has a “musk ox guarantee” if you are willing to spend some time there. You will also get to see some of the most beautiful mountains in Norway while going on the musk ox safari.
Why you should go on a musk ox safari when you visit Norway
The musk ox is a majestic and primal animal that looks nothing like the rest of the wildlife in Norway. Going on a safari to see these ancient animals is a truly unique experience that is perfect for anyone who enjoys wildlife experiences, and can be done by both adults and families with children during the summer.
Some people choose to hike the musk ox trail themselves, while others prefer to go on it with a guide. A guide will almost certainly know where a musk ox herd is at all times, making it almost guaranteed that you will encounter these ancient animals, as well as being able to answer all your questions about the animal.
No matter which version you choose, you are guaranteed to get a great hike with a lot of beautiful, Norwegian nature. And in most cases you are also rewarded with the spectacular sight of these enormous animals that grazes on grass without a worry in the world.
How to go on a musk ox safari in Norway
When going on a musk ox safari, you can either choose to go on a guided tour, or by yourself. Either way, you need to get Kongsvoll stasjon to start the hike. This station is part of the Dovrebanen, a train track that goes from Eidsvoll to Trondheim. You can easily get there by train from Oslo, and the main train line between Oslo and Trondheim gets you there.
The musk ox trails can be started directly from Kongsvoll stasjon, and you won’t have any problems finding it since there are lots of signs and posters on the station. So, just take the train to the station and start the trail directly there. The guides tend to meet you by the train station as well, so Kongsvoll is the place to head to in order to begin the musk ox safari.
If you need accommodations, there is a small hotel called Kongsvold Fjeldstue. This small hotel is a popular place to stay if you want to get an early start on the musk ox trail. It’s also a great place to stop for a warm meal after you are done with the trail, and perhaps have a few hours left before the train arrives.
The musk ox trail
You can choose if you want to take the short trail (4.5 km) or the long trail (15 km), and the longer you go, the higher your chances of seeing a musk ox is. You can choose to start the musk ox trail from either Kongsvoll stasjon or from Kongsvold Fjeldstue.
The trail start in birch forest, and quickly gets you to bare mountains, and is considered a bit difficult, so you might want to have some experience with hiking before you attempt this trail.
If you want to have the best chance of seeing musk oxen, head towards the Høgsnyta area. This is a view point where you usually have a good view of musk oxen. It’s also a nice place to stop to eat lunch and relax a bit after a long hike.
The musk ox trail is only open during summer, so you will need to do this between June and September. Expect the entire trail to take 4 – 5 hours in total, or more if you spend a long time looking at the animals.
Things to be aware of when going on a musk ox safari
You need to be careful when going on the musk ox trail, because the musk oxen can be dangerous if you get too close! They can attack if they feel threatened, so it is recommended to always stay at least 200 meters away from them.
If they are standing on the trail, go around them in a big curve, and don’t take this as an opportunity to get close to them. These are huge animals that will defend themselves if they feel like they need it!
The musk oxen will not care about humans, and mostly be completely indifferent towards them. That is until you get too close. If they stop grazing, are looking at you, or are making gestures at you, it’s time to move away from them quickly. You will not be able to outrun one, but they will feel safer and be less likely to attack if you back away.
You should be considerate when you are in the birch forest part of the trail, because the musk oxen do sometimes go down there to eat. It is obviously a lot easier to stumble into them by mistake down in the forest than up in the mountains, so make sure to be alert of noises and movements in the forest at the beginning on the trail.
With all this said, musk oxen are not dangerous as long as you respect the animal by staying 200 meters away from it. If a musk ox is deemed to be too aggressive towards humans, it will usually be put down, and normal musk oxen should not have aggressive behavior in normal situations.
The history of musk oxen in Norway
Despite what many people think, the musk oxen of Norway are not really a natural population at all. There used to be musk oxen in Norway during the last ice age, but this is several thousand years ago.
The modern musk oxen in Norway are all imported from Greenland, and the first animals were imported from Greenland to Dovre in 1932. They did OK for a while, but the entire population crashed from hunting pressure during WW2, so new animals has to be imported from Greenland after the end of the war.
The musk oxen herd in Dovre was small until the 1970s, with only between 20 and 40 animals at a given time. It’s only in the last 20 years that the herd has increased a lot, and there are now usually around 240 – 260 animals at any given time, and around 50 calves that are born each year.
Frequently asked questions about musk oxen in Norway
Can you see the musk oxen from the train on Dovrebanen?
If you travel between Oslo and Trondheim, you will pass by Dovre, and you can occasionally see the musk oxen from the train. So go find a window spot when passing Dovre and cross your fingers!
The train conductor will often make an announcement when they are visible, telling you where to look to see them.
Is it dangerous to go on a musk ox safari?
Musk oxen are not considered dangerous as long as you respect the animal by keeping your distance from it. They will never attack you unprovoked, but they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. You are unlikely to be in any danger when on a musk oxen safari, but you should take precautions to not disturb the animals.
Should you do a guided safari or hike alone?
That depends on your preference. Many people enjoy going on hikes alone, but this require more preparations. A guided tour will usually take you directly to where the animals are, all while teaching and telling you about them, so it’s a great experience for those that enjoy doing group hikes.
Can you go on a musk ox safari during winter?
It is possible to go on a musk ox safari at winter, but this will be a very different experience compared to during summer. Instead of going on the trail, you will have to be comfortable with skiing to get to the animals. There are usually very few musk ox safari tourists at winter, but there are some.
How much does a musk ox safari cost?
If you go on the hike yourself without a guide, you won’t have to pay a single crown. Guides are free to choose their own price, but expect to pay around 500 – 700 NOK per adult for a group hike with a guide.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.